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Michigan extends jobless benefits an additional 20 weeks to a maximum of 59

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Unemployment insurance benefits have been extended in Michigan for up to an additional 20 weeks for workers whose regular state and federal benefits have ended, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency announced Thursday.

The 20-week extension allows for a maximum of 59 weeks of jobless benefits in Michigan. It comes after employment fell by a historic more than 1 million jobs in March and April in Michigan as businesses shut down and made layoffs because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Although more than half of the jobs have returned, hundreds of thousands remain unemployed 30 weeks since the state confirmed its first COVID-19 cases.

Michigan's jobless rate fell by two-tenths of a percentage point in September to 8.5%, mainly because some stopped looking for work.

"The Extended Benefit program will provide a much-needed safety net for Michiganders who have exhausted their current benefits and are still dealing with the long-term effects of unemployment due to COVID-19," UIA Director Steve Gray said in a statement Thursday.

Michigan implements the federal extended benefits program during periods of high unemployment. The program takes effect when a state's average unemployment rate is 8% or higher for three consecutive months, according to the state. 

August's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.7%, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. That's down from the record 22.7% jobless rate hit in April.

The period for regular state benefits for the unemployed is 26 weeks, while the maximum length of benefits under the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation is 13 weeks.

To receive the additional 20 weeks of benefits claimants must be unemployed or underemployed and be able to work and available for work — the same requirements for regular state unemployment insurance.

The maximum weekly unemployment benefit typically is $362. An extra $300 federal payment is provided for people making at least $100 in unemployment pay during the COVID-19 pandemic after Michigan was approved to participate in the program made available through an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

Forty-four states plus Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands have made use of the extended benefits program due to high levels of unemployment, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research organization.

U.S. employment fell by 22 million in March and April, resulting in a 14.7% jobless rate. Less than half have returned. The unemployment rate was 8.4% in August.

The state agency also said Thursday that since March nearly $24 billion in benefits have been paid to 2.2 million workers in Michigan.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

Staff Writer Breana Noble contributed.